‘They are fighting for our freedom’ – POLITICO


VILNIUS — The city’s walls were plastered with blue and yellow banners, the streets lined with Ukrainian flags, and residents relished their memories of Russian rule. Kyiv couldn’t have asked for a friendlier city than the capital of Lithuania to make the case for joining NATO.

Before meeting NATO leaders for dinner on Tuesday evening, Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared on Lukiškės Square in central Vilnius, where thousands of locals gathered. loudly loudly they held him up and waved the Ukrainian and Lithuanian flags.

“Thank you Lithuania, thank you very much,” Zelenskyy said in English to loud applause, before moving on to Ukraine to call for more aid and to quickly replace NATO with his country.

“It really touched me,” said Karolina Vitonienė, who was watching with her friends and daughter.

“We understand that they [the Ukrainians] they are also fighting for our freedom,” said a citizen of Vilnius. “Each of us remembers what it’s like to sit down, or knows the stories of their families… That’s why Zelenskyy’s speech had such an impact.”

Vitonienė, who is now 37 years old, said that she had a dream when she was five years old, that a Russian person. a tank can overturn his house. He looked down at his son and said: “We want our children to have a future without dreams about tanks.”

Karolina Vitonienė and her friend Džiugas Karalius, who was waving a large Ukrainian flag Hans Von Der Burchard/POLITICO

Although NATO leaders have not given Ukraine the clear path to future membership that Zelenskyy has pushed for, they have received security pledges from various countries – and this welcome.

The summit brought leaders from the 31-nation bloc and others, such as Zelenskyy, to Lithuania’s capital of about 600,000 people, causing gridlock and traffic jams between the picturesque city and major highways. However, the local people enjoyed the ceremony.

“This really puts us on the world map. Everyone is now talking about us,” said Viltaras Krisciunas from Vilnius, who watched Zelenskyy’s speech in the square with his wife Giedre, wrapping large Lithuanian flags around their bodies.

Viltaras Krisciunas and his wife Giedre Krisciune | Hans Von Der Burchard/POLITICO

Oksana Baitala, a girl from the Lviv region of western Ukraine, who now lives in Lithuania, watched with her mother, Uliana. He also said that he appreciates the help and cooperation of the people of Lithuania and Europe.

Although the meeting did not make NATO members look bad in Ukraine, Mr. Baitala said he is hopeful that the meeting will be very interesting.

Oksana Baitala of Ukraine and her mother Uliana, left | Hans Von Der Burchard/POLITICO

Rytis Povilaitis from Vilnius, who wore a shirt with an American Himars missile launcher displayed on it, said it was impressive that Zelenskyy – the leader of a country at war that Russia is trying to kill – spoke in front of thousands of people. a foreign country.

“The most important thing for me was when Volodymyr said that if Ukraine joins NATO, it will make NATO more powerful,” he said. “I think he was right.”

Rytis Povilaitis and his friends Lukas Petreikis and Dzeneta Berankyte | Hans Von Der Burchard/POLITICO


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